Artibus et Historiae no. 9 (V)

1984, ISSN 0391-9064

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KARSTEN HARRIES - Space, Place, and Ethos: Reflections on the Ethical Function of Architecture

Building transforms space into place; establishing place, it articulates an ethos. Building thus has an ethical function. Today this function is threatened by the commitment to objectivity that has shaped modernity. If that commitment has brought a new freedom, it has also brought a loss of place. Such displacement breeds dreams of a more genuine dwelling. But, while we must recognize the legitimacy of such dreams, we should not sacrifice freedom to them. Man belongs to the earth and to the light. This twofold belonging is never without tension. Building can regain its ethical function only when it learns to preserve and articulate that tension. But to do so, it must first open itself to the ambiguous language of space and place.

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